The race for the top individual awards in college football this season will have some standout players seeking repeats.
Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor won the Doak Walker Award as the nation’s top running back last season, while Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy earned the Fred Biletnikoff Award as the most outstanding receiver. Both players are back for their junior seasons.
Taylor discussed his award candidacy by talking about the advice he’s received from former Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield and former Doak Walker Award winner Bryce Love.
“The thing that they mentioned to me about the award was they’re just going out there to try to win games,” Taylor said. “Now I feel I’m taking that into consideration. As long as I’m going out there and trying to win games, everything will fall into place.”
Taylor is trying to become the first player to win the Doak Walker in back-to-back seasons since Arkansas’ Darren McFadden in 2006-07. The only other player to win this award in consecutive years was Texas’ Ricky Williams in 1997-98.
The only player to win the Biletnikoff Award in back-to-back seasons was Oklahoma State’s Justin Blackmon in 2010-11.
Syracuse’s Andre Szmyt and Texas A&M’s Braden Mann also are looking to win annual position awards in back-to-back seasons. Szmyt won the Lou Groza Award as college football’s top kicker and Mann won the Ray Guy Award as the game’s best punter last year.
Some of the top preseason candidates for various college football awards:
HEISMAN TROPHY (top overall player)
Trevor Lawrence, Clemson: Lawrence’s dominant performance in last year’s College Football Playoff establishes the sophomore quarterback as a Heisman front-runner.
Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama: The junior quarterback was the Heisman favorite for most of last season but ultimately finished second to Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray.
Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin: Taylor has rushed for 4,171 yards over the last two seasons and was the nation’s top rusher a year ago. His Heisman hopes could depend on whether Wisconsin improves upon last year’s 8-5 finish.
DAVEY O’BRIEN (top quarterback)
Jake Fromm, Georgia: Fromm ranked fifth nationally in passing efficiency last year and has finished in the top 10 in that category each of the last two seasons.
Trevor Lawrence, Clemson: He threw 30 touchdown passes with only four interceptions as a freshman last season and wasn’t picked off in his last 169 attempts.
Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama: Tagovailoa was a finalist for this award last year while throwing for 3,966 yards and 43 touchdowns with only six interceptions.
DOAK WALKER (top running back)
Eno Benjamin, Arizona State: Benjamin rushed for 1,642 yards on 300 carries last season to earn Associated Press All-America third-team honors.
Travis Etienne, Clemson: Etienne ran for 1,658 yards and averaged 8.1 yards per carry last season as a second-team AP All-America selection.
Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin: Taylor rushed for 2,194 yards last year – 285 more than anyone else
BILETNIKOFF (top receiver)
Jerry Jeudy, Alabama: Jeudy caught 68 passes for 1,315 yards and 14 touchdowns as a sophomore last season.
Laviska Shenault, Colorado: Shenault played just nine games last year due to injury but still had 86 catches for 1,011 yards. He ranked fourth in yards receiving per game.
Tylan Wallace, Oklahoma State: Wallace was one of three finalists for the Biletnikoff last season and earned second-team AP All-America Honors. He caught 86 passes for 1,491 yards and 12 touchdowns while ranking third in yards receiving per game.
OUTLAND (top interior lineman)
Tyler Biadasz, Wisconsin: He’s the leader of an offensive line that clears the way for Jonathan Taylor. The junior center is a third-year starter who earned consensus first-team all-Big Ten honors last season.
Walker Little, Stanford: Two years ago, Little became the first Stanford true freshman to start at left tackle since 2000. Now he’s a junior regarded as a likely first-round draft pick.
Andrew Thomas, Georgia: This junior tackle is a third-year starter who earned second-team AP All-America honors last season.
BEDNARIK/NAGURSKI (separate awards for the top overall defensive player)
Grant Delpit, LSU: Delpit was a Nagurski finalist and earned first-team AP All-America honors as a sophomore last season.
A.J. Epenesa, Iowa: Epenesa is coming off a 2018 season in which he collected 16 ½ tackles for loss and 10 ½ sacks.
Chase Young, Ohio State: Young had 15 ½ tackles for loss and 10 sacks last year.
BUTKUS (top linebacker)
Paddy Fisher, Northwestern: Fisher has collected at least 113 tackles and has forced four fumbles each of the last two seasons. He earned AP All-America third-team honors last year.
Dylan Moses, Alabama: Moses was one of three finalists for this award last season as he collected 86 tackles, including 10 for loss.
Isaiah Simmons, Clemson: This converted safety had a team-high 97 tackles for the national champions last year. He had 9 ½ tackles for loss and seven pass breakups.
JIM THORPE (top defensive back)
Grant Delpit, LSU: Delpit had 74 tackles, five sacks and five interceptions last season. He hopes to follow the lead of former LSU teammate Greedy Williams, who was a Thorpe Award finalist last year.
Bryce Hall, Virginia: Hall led the nation in pass breakups (22) and tied for the lead in passes defended (24) last season.
C.J. Henderson, Florida: This junior cornerback already has made 18 career starts. He made a game-clinching interception against South Carolina and had 1½ tackles for loss in a Peach Bowl win over Michigan.
JOHN MACKEY (top tight end)
Albert Okwuegbunam, Missouri: He was a finalist for this award last year even though injuries limited him to nine games. Okwuegbunam has caught 17 touchdown passes over the last two seasons.
Colby Parkinson, Stanford: This junior has 11 career touchdown catches. He caught four touchdown passes against Oregon State last November.
Jared Pinkney, Vanderbilt: This fifth-year senior is coming off a season in which he caught 50 passes for 774 yards and seven touchdowns.
LOU GROZA (top kicker)
Rodrigo Blankenship, Georgia: Blankenship made 14 straight field-goal attempts during one stretch last season and has a career long of 55 yards.
Cooper Rothe, Wyoming: Rothe was a Groza Award finalist last year who went 16 of 17 on field-goal attempts and 28 of 28 on extra points.
Andre Szmyt, Syracuse: He won the Groza Award and was a first-team AP All-American last year. He was 30 of 34 on field-goal attempts with a long of 54.
RAY GUY (top punter)
Braden Mann, Texas A&M: The reigning Ray Guy winner averaged 51 yards per attempt and landed 19 of his punts inside the opponent’s 20-yard line.
James Smith, Cincinnati: Smith was a Ray Guy Award finalist last year. He averaged 46.6 yards per punt and put 20 of his 59 attempts inside the opponent’s 20.
Brandon Wright, Georgia State: His average of 48.2 yards per punt last season set a Sun Belt record.